A question of Asian marriage customs

When I was in college, a close friend of mine was from Vietnam. She became an American citizen while we were in college. She liked to date white guys, and after college became engaged to one.

Her parents were incensed. So incensed that they threatened to disown her. Although this girl was a straight-A student in microbiology, she was “a disgrace to her family”. She eventually ended the engagement, and I never heard from her again. I don’t know if she was too embarrassed to face me or what.

Cut to today. Another good friend of mine is an Australian chap born of Chinese parents. He has been over here working for several years on his green card. He met a beautiful Chinese-American woman, and they fell madly in love. Last Christmas he took her back to Australia to meet his mother (father has died). His mother decided she hated this girl, and was absolutely incensed that her son had chosen a wife without any input from her. She told him to choose between the girlfriend or her. They cut the trip short and came home. He chose Mom, and dumped the girlfriend.

Now my little emancipated American brain can’t even fathom these scenarios. Is it the custom in most Asian countries that parents help choose the spouse? Why weren’t these parents happy for their children? In both cases, the mate their kids had chosen were wonderful people. Why didn’t that matter?

I live in China and have lots of white friends that have dated and even married local girls. At least here it doesn’t seem to bother anyone. The Westerners can usually afford better housing and living standards than the average Chinaman, 'cause most of us are here on business.

Americans are of course not particularly welcome anywhere I’ve been (sorry, guys!), rather than it being a “white” or “western” thing!

That said, there is still a lot of racism all over the world and Asia is no different in that respect, it differs from person to person.
It used to be an outrageous thing for a black man to marry a white girl in the USA, as shown in the Oscar winning “Guess who’s coming to dinner?”.
Great film BTW :wink:

— G. Raven

A number of different factors contribute.

  1. Racism, as noted above. as much as racism, Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, et al have been at various stages of war for centuries. They don’t even like each other, much less whites/Westerners.

  2. A tradition of respect for elders. That means you don’t make any major decision (marriage, work, etc.) without checking with your parents or even grandparents.

  3. After World War II, a lot of the Asian “war brides” arrived in the United States to discover that their fast-talking, rich American soldier husbands actually had jobs on the loading dock and lived with their parents. It’s caused two generations to view any American with romantic intentions as suspect.

  4. Having said all that, your Australian friend wouldn’t be the first person of any race on any continent to be caught between his mother and his grilfriend.

I’m a white guy living in Australia, and in a long-term relationship with a Vietnamese girl, and with lots of contacts and friends in the huge local Asian community. This sort of parental problem has never been an issue for anybody I know personally, although I know it does happen.

I think it’s just a form of racism which can happen in any community, and if your potential spouse ditches you on a parent’s say-so, then you’ve probably been done a favour. I wouldn’t want to be with a person like that.

First a little background: I’m a Caucasian male, born and raised in the U.S. My wife is Chinese, born and raised in Hong Kong. She went to college over here, and that’s where we met. We presently live in Ohio.

My family has always accepted her. Likewise, her parents have always accepted me (at least I believe so). The only “problem” was when we got married; her parents asked (poor) me to pay (wealthy) them a dowry of about $15,000. I said, “No way.” First of all, I didn’t even have $15,000. And even if I did, there was no way I would give them a penny for the “privilege” of marrying their daughter. Anyway, I don’t believe there were any hard feelings afterwards.

I have a friend who was originally from Taiwan but she was living and working here on the west coast. Her mom and dad are divorced and live in Texas. She met a guy from the US, also originally from Taiwan, at a technical conference in Taipei and they started dating when they got back here. One thing led to another and they decided to get married.

When my friend told her mom she was thrilled… but her dad wasn’t and is trying to sabotage the relationship in every way he can. So I don’t think it’s racism going on here (everyone is from Taiwan) but the simple fact that the father wasn’t involved in the decision making process. I think parents are far more involved in the process in Asia than here and feel insulted when their offspring go off and pick their own mates. Different cultural values.

Thank you, dolphinboy, that’s what I was tryingn to get at. In the second case, the girl was also Chinese, so I’m not sure racism had much to do with it. I have the feeling there’s a lot more parental involvement there than there is here, and I was just looking to see if that was correct.

As someone else mentioned, it’s not just marriage,it’s every decision. My Chinese mother-in-law expected to have a say in everything from who her son married (she wasn’t happy with me), which house we bought, what we spent our money on,what we spent time on, to (I’m not kidding) whether we had sex when I was pregnant.

My Japanese host sister from high school (we still keep in touch) broke up with the boy she was planning to marry early last year. What most surprised me was how involved all the aprents (hers and his) were involved in the decision. Keiko was unhappy, not eating enough, and not getting enough sleep because of troubles with the guy and his parents. So Keiko’s parents would call her fiancee’s parents and try to work things out. Of course Keiko and the boy were also trying to work it out between themselves. By which I mean to emphasize that it was not a “do as your parents say” decision, but rather a “let’s work this out as a famliy” decision.

In the end, everyone decided it would be better to break up.

What struck me most was the way the whole thing was approached almost as a health issue. Our daughter is (literally) sick over this situation, and this is bad for her and the whole family…what can we do to fix it? EVERYONE is involved.

And I remember thinking how cool that was. Of course it is hard for me as an American to look at that and think “I wish my life was like that.” I would never want my parents to have that much of a say in my personaly life, and they wouldn’t want to, either. But in the context of the culture, I thought it was really beautiful how the whole family looked out for eachother. Of course I’m sure that gets to be a burden sometimes, but it also has lots of benefits.

I think the problem comes when a child is born into one culture and raised in another. My best friend is a Kashmiri Muslim, and she could never even DREAM of telling her parents that for the last five years she has been dating white, non-muslim men, and living with homosexuals. They know, of course, but the whole family plays this game where they pretend it’s not happening. She gets her own phone line wherever she lives that no man is allowed to touch. So her parents get to keep pretending there aren’t white devils, 12-inch dildoes, and used condoms asll over her house. Which there aren’t anymore, but…what an image, right?

American parents (generally) work to raise individuals, and Japanese parents (generally, and TRADITIONALLY, because this is changing as well) raise family members. At least this is my impression.

And I also agree with all the folks who say it isn’t necessarily a cultural thing…that in-laws are in-laws and some of them play nice and some don’t. But imagine how you would feel if you woke up one day to find that you and your child just couldn’t understand eachother at a very basic and essential level. It’s one thing to make friends with or even marry someone from a different culture, but when your own child is no longer a member of your culture, I would imagine it can be quite a shock.